(Excerpted from Jeff Williams’s interview for UVA Today, the online news service for the University of Virginia)
A 2015 Gallup survey found that people over 50 were among the fastest-growing groups of new entrepreneurs in the U.S. Compared with millennials, they are roughly twice as likely to plan on starting a venture in the next year. Their success – typically powered by large professional networks and savings accrued from years of work – has made them an economic force to be reckoned with.
UVA Today spoke with Virginia alum Jeff Williams to find out more about this increasingly influential group.
Q. What motivates many of your clients to start their own businesses?
A. What really activates these people is a desire to keep working. Baby Boomers – and I count myself as one – do not have our parents’ belief that once you leave a traditional job, you stop work altogether. Boomers want to feel that they are still contributing, still in the game and still doing something interesting.
Having said that, another important motivation, of course, is financial. All of my clients would like to earn extra income. A recent survey [from the Bureau of Labor Statistics] found that 20 percent of Americans over 65 are still working – the highest percentage since 1960. Many do not have enough money saved to retire. About a third of my clients have been downsized and many took a hit to their 401K or real estate assets during the recession. Running their own business permits them to rebuild retirement assets while doing work they enjoy.
Q. Do you see any trends in the types of businesses that your clients start?
A. The businesses are varied, but I have noticed a new generation of entrepreneurship built around sharing knowledge and training know-how. My business is a combination of traditional consulting and sharing knowledge and expert information through books, workshops and online courses. Two of my clients right now are writing books centered on their work experience and planning companies around those books.
Q. What are some key differences between millennial entrepreneurs – the archetypal entrepreneurs seen in the media – and Baby Boomer entrepreneurs?
A. I just finished a yearlong project helping a high school entrepreneurship class develop business ideas, so I have observed the differences firsthand. Millennial entrepreneurs often go right to technology and often want to create digital products or services, such as smartphone apps.
That is not as common in older entrepreneurs. Younger entrepreneurs are also comfortable engaging their team digitally or over text, while 50-plus entrepreneurs focus on face-to-face and phone meetings.
Boomer entrepreneurs have a very different perspective starting out. A 25-year-old entrepreneur thinks they may be Mark Zuckerberg. A 55-year-old has no such thoughts. They want to keep working into their 60s, doing work they enjoy on a flexible schedule and making some nice income to supplement their retirement earnings.
Q. What unique challenges do older entrepreneurs face?
A. Boomer entrepreneurs often worry about using retirement savings to start a business. They also have to think about physical stamina. The Silicon Valley lifestyle of not sleeping for days simply does not work in my age group. You have to be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
Some Boomer entrepreneurs are less familiar with the latest business technology. That is why my company’s Virtual Incubator business start-up program offers a full support team to handle clients’ Web and social media presence.
Q. What unique advantages do older entrepreneurs have?
A. So many. Age is often a detriment in the job market, but a plus in the entrepreneurial world. People pay for expertise, experience and wisdom, and Baby Boomers have it. Boomer entrepreneurs also have very good networks. Our average client, at about 57 years old, has over 2,000 people in their LinkedIn network. They have often had to hire or fire people and are good at reading if someone is sincere and capable. They are also very project-oriented. Many of the Boomers came into the workplace when project management techniques were pioneered. It’s in our bones.
Q. What key advice would you give to fellow boomers looking to start a business?
A. First, think about your life plan before you consider your business. What do you want to happen over the next two or three years? As you explore business ideas, make sure that you honestly evaluate time demands and relate that to your desired life plan. Today, you can run a business full-time, part-time or just sometime.
Second, remember that successful businesses come from one simple concept. You need to solve a problem for someone. That is why a lot of Boomers tend to go into work that they already know well, whether from industry experience or a longtime hobby.
Third, there is a lot of help out there. You do not have to do this alone.
Finally, you can launch a really solid business for well under $10,000. You do not have to risk killing all of your retirement assets.
Even though the majority of our startup clients choose to run their businesses as sole owners, it doesn’t mean that they run their businesses all my themselves. Today, there is a dizzying array of online services to help business owners save time, and often money, in both learning new management techniques and using the more familiar ones more effectively.
In this episode, I talk about some of my favorite online services and resources I use to get the productivity equivalent to several employees, without having to worry about payroll.
Welcome to the inaugural episode of the “Business Startup for Boomers” podcast series, hosted by Larry Ahrends, well-known radio personality, and Jeff Williams, CEO of Bizstarters and guide to new boomer entrepreneurs for the past twenty-five years.
In this episode, Jeff describes a reliable three-step process for tapping into your experience and talent to find a business concept ideally suited to you.
While many of us boomer business owners enjoy the ease of staying in touch with family and friends via our Facebook pages, many fewer of us have explored the use of a Facebook Business Page. And a good number of us who have taken the time to set up a Business Page are still not clear on its effectiveness as a marketing tool.
Results of a recent survey by business networking site, Manta, revealed that less than 25% of Facebook Business Pages see a positive return for their marketing.
When considering starting your own business it is natural to have questions come to mind.
Over the past few years, I have found that I repeatedly receive many of the same questions.
So, I decided to record my answers in a series of short videos.
The series is entitled: “Why It’s So Fun and Profitable to Run a Business After 50”.
Some of the questions that I answer include:
What is life like as a boomer business owner?
Isn’t it costly to run your own business?
Can I work to solve a social problem?
How do I find a good business idea?
what are popular ways to run a business?
Meet Sarah Shaw, CEO of Sarah Shaw Consulting and a women who takes pride in the fact that “she has never really had a job”.
Right out of college, Sarah succeeded in achieving her goal of creating costumes for Hollywood performers. She thought that her life would be spent shuttling from sound stage to sound stage…but one day she got an idea for a different kind of handbag. Soon she was spending each night cutting material and sewing and ornamenting the bags. She found her first customers among the many support people found on Hollywood lots.
After losing her financing after 9/11, Sarah was forced to close her handbag company, but always nurturing new ideas, she soon was selling a closet organizer she designed to the Container Store and other chain stores.
Along the way, Sarah started to receive more and more inquiries from fashion entrepreneurs who wanted to tap into her successful process for bringing a new fashion line to market.
Today, Sarah’s primary business is providing top to bottom advice and services to all manner of new sellers of fashion items. Her specialty is getting her clients’ fashion goods into the hands of celebrities.
Listen to our interview
Meet Donna Cavanaugh, CEO of Humor Outcasts.com.
Donna started writing a weekly humor column for a local Pennsylvania newspaper. Soon, she was syndicated in a series of daily newspapers with a loyal following.
As she transitioned to presenting her brand of humor in the digital world, she quickly noticed that a number of owners of web content sites objected to her brand of wry humor.
So, responding to her innate entrepreneur, Donna launched Humor Outcasts, a web portal that permits a wide variety of amateur and professional humorists to publish their musings, without fear of censorship.
Patricia Hajifotiu, Co-founder of The Olive Odysseys, describes her most unique travel company owned by boomers and largely run for boomers.
I spoke with Patricia recently from her location on the Greek island of Evia.
Patricia and her husband Manolis are serial entrepreneurs, having run a photography business in Patricia’s home state of Ohio for almost a decade before they decided to relocate to Manolis’ home…Greece.
In the sunny climes of the Aegean Patricia and Manolis were drawn to the travel business when they answered an ad run by a Colorado company looking for part-time guides for walking and cycling tours of Greece.
Listen to this every engaging interview to learn how Olive Odysseys came to be and where Patricia and Manolis intend to steer their venture.
Click here to learn about Patricia’s business.
In this installment of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50” I interview Elaine Povinelli, CEO of Dainty Wrist Jewelry.com.
Elaine is an example of a new generation of fashion-oriented online merchants who find a well-defined niche and offer customized products to satisfy the need.
A single mother with several children, Elaine needed to really boost her income as a bank manager. She loved accessorizing her outfits and so regularly shopped her local retailers looking for exciting new bracelets, scarves and other fashion accessories.
But, she continually encountered a challenge – all of the bracelets she found in stores were way too large to comfortably wear on her narrow wrist. So, Elaine went on a quest…to find every supplier out there who offered bracelet designs sized to fit smaller wrists.
And voila! She found that she had created a business sharing her finds with the thousands of women with small wrists.
In this installment of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50” I interview Lynne Strang author of “Late Blooming Entrepreneurs: 8 Principles for Starting a Business After age 40”.
Lynne left a career as a public relations executive to launch her own publicity consulting firm. But, she had also long harbored a desire to write a book about individuals who take the entrepreneurial plunge later in life.
As Lynne started to look for appropriate interview subjects, she quickly realized that putting the book together the way she wanted was going to be nearly full-time work. So, she put the publicity consulting practice onto the back burner for more than two years while she completed the book.
I have read Late Blooming Entrepreneurs and find the real life stories very interesting and often inspiring. In this interview, Lynne describes her transition to author.
In this episode of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50” I interview Deb Martin, CEO of Profitable Processes.
Over a thirty year career as an Industrial engineer, Deb has worked in a wide variety of large scale manufacturing facilities, the last seven years working for the Oscar Mayer division of Kraft.
With the merger of Kraft and Heinz, Deb received an early retirement offer and jumped at it to retire and launch her own consulting company.
Profitable Processes evaluates and analyzes the in-plant operations of small to mid-size manufacturers looking for cost-saving and productivity-boosting alterations and improvements.
A woman of many talents, Deb also recently published her first book: “Daycare Advice from Haley”, where she puts into print the humorous and sometimes insightful comments of her granddaughter on the world of daycare from a child’s perspective.
In this episode of our popular podcast series: “Running a Great Business After 50″ in I interview Nancy Collamer, CEO of My Lifestyle Career and author of ” Second Act Careers”.
Since we both work with boomer clients, Nancy and I have shared resources, tips and anecdotes for a number of years.
I was pleased to have a chance to have her share the knowledge and wisdom she has collected for those considering retirement.
In addition to running a thriving retirement coaching business, Nancy has long loved writing. She first gained national prominence through her blog writings for Ophrah’s Oxygen network.